Letter (WCP370.370)


Batchian [Bacan],2 Moluccas.

Nov. 30th. [18]/58

My dear George3

I do not think I have written to you very lately. I have just received yours of August 3.4 with reminiscences of Switzerland.5 To you it seems a short time since. To me an immeasurable series of ages. In fact Switzerland & the Amazon6 now seem to me quite unreal, — a sort of former existence, — a long-ago dream. Malays & Papuans, — Beetles & Birds are what now occupy my thoughts mixed with financial speculations & hopes for a happy future in Old England, where I may live in solitude & seclusion except from a few close friends. You cannot perhaps imagine how I have come to love solitude. I seldom have a visitor but what I wish him away in an hour. I find it very favourable to reflection, & if you have any acquaintance who is a member of the Linnean Society7 borrow the Journal of Proceedings of August last8 & in the last article you will find some of my latest lucubrations with some complimentary [2] remarks thereon by Sir. C. Lyell9 & Dr. Hooker10 which (as I know neither of them) I must say I am a little proud of.

As to politics I hate & abominate them. The news from India11 I now never read, as it is all an inextricable confusion without good maps & regular papers, mine come in lumps 2 or 3 months at a time with the alternate ones stolen or lost. I therefore beg you to write no more politics. Nothing public or newspaperish. Tell me about yourself, — your own private doings, — your health, your visits your new or old acquaintances, (for I know you pick up ½ a dozen every month, à la Barragan.)12 But above all tell me of what you read. Have you read the Currency book13 I returned you? — "Horne Tooke"?14 — Bentham,?15 Family Herald16 Leading Articles? — Give me your opinions on any or all of these. Follow the advice in Fam[ily]. Herald art[icle]. on "Happiness" — "Ride a hobby", & you will assuredly find happiness in it as I do. Let Ethnology be your hobby, as you seem already to have put your foot in the stirrup, — but ride [3] it hard. If I live to return I shall come out strong as Malay & Papuan races, & astonish Latham,17 Davis,18 &c. &c — By the bye I have just had a letter19 from Davis; he says he says he sent my last letter to you, & it is lost mysteriously. Instead therefore of sending me an answer to my poser, he repeats what he has said in every letter I have had from him "myriads of miracles are required to people the earth from one source." I am sick of him — you must read "Pritchard"20 through, & "Lawrence’s Lectures on Man"21 carefully but I am convinced no man can be a good ethnologist who does not travel, & not travel merely but reside as I do months & years with each race, becoming well acquainted with their average physiognomy & moral character, so as to be able to detect cross-breeds, which totally mislead the hasty traveller who thinks they are transitions!! Latham22 I am sure is quite wrong on many points.

To New Guinea I took an old edition of "Tristram Shandy"23 which I read about three times. It is an annoying & you will perhaps say a very gross book, but there are passages in it that have never been surpassed while the character of [4] Uncle Toby24 has certainly never been equalled except perhaps by that of Don Quixote.25 I have lately read a good many of Dumas'26 wonderful novels & they are wonderful but often very careless, & some quite unfinished. The "Memoirs of a Physician"27 is a most wonderful wild mixture of History, Science, & romance — the 2nd. part "The Queen[']s Necklace"28 is most wonderful & perhaps most true. You should read them (if you have not) when you are horribly "ennui".

As to your private communications in former letters, I am very sorry you have not been fortunate in your "affaires du coeur". All I can say is "try again". Marriage has a wonderful effect in brightening the intellect. For example John29 used not to be considered witty, yet in his last letter30 he begs me "to write to him "semi-occasionally or oftener if I have time" & I send you a not bad extract from his letter, with an idea of my own on "smoke",31 to send to the Athenaeum.32 By this mail I send more than a dozen letters for my correspondence is increasing. You must therefore excuse this random lot of odds & ends & send me a ditto in return, only more so.

I must now conclude | Remaining my dear G. | Yours ever faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

G. E. Silk Esq.

P.S. A big spider fell close to my hand in the middle of my signature wh[ich]. accounts for the hitch.33

P.S. I have to send this at a moments notice. Can not write home so call on my mother34 A W. [signature] Dec. 2035

This page is marked in red pencil or crayon from the sentence beginning "I have just received yours of August 3...." to the foot of the page, running from the beginning of that sentence into the left-hand margin and then all the way down the page in the margin.
Batchian [Bacan], an island in the northern section of the Moluccas (Maluku) group, Maluku province, Indonesia (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2018. Bacan. Island, Indonesia. Encyclopaedia Britannica. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Bacan> [accessed 30 December 2018]).
Silk, George Charles (1822-1910). Friend of ARW since childhood; secretary to the Archdeacon of Middlesex.
This letter is presumed lost (see WCP4827.5224).
ARW and George Silk visited Switzerland together in 1853 (Wallace, A. R. 1905. My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, 2 vols. London, UK: Chapman & Hall, Ltd. [vol. 1, pp. 325-326].
ARW travelled in South America, including places along the Amazon River in Brazil, between 1848 and 1852 (Beccaloni, G. N.d. Wallace timeline. The Alfred Russel Wallace Website. http://wallacefund.info/wallace-timeline [accessed 11 January 2019]).
The Linnean Society of London, the oldest surviving biological society in the world, founded in 1788 (The Linnean Society of London. 2018. The Linnean Society. The Linnean Society of London. <https://www.linnean.org/> [accessed 30 December 2018]).
Wallace, A. R. 1858-1859. On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type. [read 1 July 1858]. Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society. Zoology. 3: 53-62.
Lyell, Charles (1797-1875). British lawyer and geologist.
Hooker, Joseph Dalton (1817-1911). British botanist, explorer and second Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Very probably a reference to events during and perhaps after the Indian mutiny, a rebellion by Indian which broke out in 1857, with peace declared 8 July 1858, following which, the Company was abolished and its governance of India replaced by direct rule of India by the British government (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2018. Indian Mutiny. Indian History. Enclyclopaedia Britannica. <https://www.britannica.com/event/Indian-Mutiny> [accessed 31 December 2018]).
Barragan, as yet unidentified.
Perhaps Combe, G. 1856. The Currency Question, considered in Relation to the Act of the 7th and 9th Victoria, Chap. 32, commonly called the Bank Restriction Act …. London, UK: Effingham Wilson.
Perhaps Tooke, J. H. 1786-1805. Epea Pteroenta, or, The Diversions of Purley, 2 vols. London, UK: J. Johnson; London, UK: S.N.
Perhaps Bentham, J. 1838-1843. The works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring, 11 vols. Edinburgh, UK: William Tait.
The Family Herald or Useful Information and Amusement for the Million, a British weekly paper in existence from 1842, achieving very wide circulation by the 1850s (Cox, H., and Mowatt, S. 2014. Revolutions in Grub Street. A History of Magazine Publishing in England. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. [p. 8]).
Latham, Robert Gordon (1812-1888). British ethnologist and philologist.
Davis, Joseph Barnard (1801-1881). British physician and craniologist.
This letter is presumed lost.
Prichard, J. C. 1843. The Natural History of Man. London, UK: H. Baillière.
Lawrence, W. 1819. Lectures on physiology, zoology, and the natural history of man. London, UK: Callow.
Presumably Latham, R. G. 1850. The Natural History of the Varieties of Man. London, UK: J. van Voorst.
Sterne, L. 1759-1767. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 9 vols. York, UK: Ann Ward; London, UK: R. & J. Dodsley; Becket & DeHondt.
"Uncle Toby", a character in Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767), uncle of the eponymous hero, depicted as having been wounded in battle, gentle by nature and intimidated by women.
Quixote, Don, the eponymous hero of Miguel de Cervantes's novel, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605; 1615).
Dumas, Alexandre, père (1802-1870). French dramatist and author of historical novels.
Dumas, Alexandre, père. 1846-1848. Memoirs of a Physician / Mémoires d'un médecin. Paris, France: Fellens et Dufour (and A. Cadot).
Dumas, Alexandre, père. 1849-1850. The Queen's Necklace / Le Collier de la Reine. Paris, France: A. Cadot.
Wallace, John (1818-1895). Brother of ARW; engineer and surveyor.
The original letter is presumed lost, but see WCP370.8298 for the extract.
ARW’s unpublished article on ‘Smoke nuisance’, see WCP370.1655.
The Athenaeum, a British weekly literary magazine in existence between 1828 and 1921 (Graham, W. J. 1930. The Weekly Journal of Belles-Lettres. 311-344. In: Graham, W. J. English Literary Periodicals. New York, NY, USA: T. Nelson & Sons. [pp. 317-320]).
This postscript appears in the left-hand margin of page 4, to be read if the page is rotated.
Wallace (née Greenell), Mary Ann (1792-1868). Mother of ARW.
This postscript appears in the left margin of page 1, to be read if the page is rotated.

Enclosure (WCP370.1655)


Note on the Smoke Nuisance.

How is it that amid the lamentations & grumbling over the incalculable mischief done by London smoke, — masterpieces of Art ruined, palaces spoilt before they are finished, life & prosperity lost in november [sic] fogs, our streets & squares & noblest public buildings all rendered hideous, our clothes & persons begrimed & our lungs diseased, — there should be no proposals made to go to the fountain head & instead of removing our galleries & museums to a distance from those who most want them, try to get rid of the smoke itself. When the thing is once done, when our city is clean our skies bright our air pure our linen unsoiled & our works of art uninjured, we shall be almost incredible[?] incredulous that such a state of apathy and barbarism could ever have existed. The thing can easily be done; — it is a mere matter of cost, & the expense of rendering each house in London smokeless it is not very difficult to calculate.1 We have the choice of gas, anthracite coal,2 or of substituting Arnotts3 or any other smokeless grates & cooking ranges for those now in use, either of which if not absolutely smokeless[?] perfect would certainly get rid of nine tenths of the smoke now produced, & would probably soon repay the expense of the change in the saving of fuel. What hardship, what impossibility [2] what interference with vested rights would there be in compelling by Act of Parliament the use of one or other of these methods, any more than in compelling chimneys to be swept at certain intervals or houses to be built of a certain stability? Why, the mere saving in soap & linen would cover the expense in a few years, to say nothing of the incalculable natural & sanitary advantages already alluded to. If the Athenaeum & the Times would vigorously take up the question we might yet see our noble city not only the largest & the wealthiest but the cleanest & the healthiest in the world.

Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Batchian [Bacan],4 Moluccas. Nov. 1858

A symbol appears in the text here, corresponding with a similar symbol at the foot of the page, where the following text appears: "The factories have been [1 word illeg. crossed out] parliamentarised but the million domestic hearths are at once more mischievous & easier to deal with".
A type of coal which, when burned, produces relatively little smoke (Kopp, O. C. Anthracite. Mineral. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/anthracite [accessed 11 January 2019]).
A smokeless stove invented by Dr Neil Arnott, for which he won the Royal Society’s Rumford medal in 1854 (Luckin, B. 2004. Arnott, Neil (1788-1874). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. < https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/694> [accessed 11 January 2019]).
Batchian [Bacan], an island in the northern section of the Moluccas (Maluku) group, Maluku province, Indonesia (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2018. Bacan. Island, Indonesia. Encyclopaedia Britannica. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Bacan> [accessed 30 December 2018]).

Enclosure (WCP370.8298)


How they manage matters in the Model Republic.

Extract from a letter from California.1 "I must tell you that a friend of mine Mr. Mandeville2 has been appointed by the President3 to the office of the U. S. Surveyor General for the State of California. You will probably imagine that in a Model Republic like that of the United States an office of this kind would be filled by a person well qualified in every respect for such an important post; but the fact is Mr. Mandeville knows nothing either theoretically or practically of surveying, — has not even the remotest idea of the first principles; but then he has been an active politician & is on the winning side. This is the way all appointments to offices are made in this Country, no questions as to qualification asked, & no "right-man-in-the-right-place" cry raised. The principle seems to be "to the victors belong the spoils", and an active man of the right party is considered to be well qualified for any office!"

An extract from a letter, presumed lost, to ARW from his brother John Wallace (1818-1895), engineer and surveyor, who emigrated to California in 1849. As with ARW’s piece on "smoke nuisance" above, the extract was intended to be published in The Athenaeum, a British weekly literary magazine in existence between 1828 and 1921, but neither were published (see WCP370.370).
Mandeville, James W. (1824-1876). American politician; US Surveyor General for the District of California, 1858-1859.
Buchanan, James (1791-1868). American lawyer and politician; fifteenth president of the United States of America.

Envelope (WCP370.8297)

Envelope addressed to "G. C. Silk, 79 Pall Mall, London W. C., via Southampton." Postmarked: "FRANCO | ZEE BRIEF | TERNATE"; "FRANKEERD | ZEE BRIEF | TERNATE"; "LONDON | BV | AP 8[?] | 58 PAID". Note on front in ARW's hand: "Smoke &c. | Batchian. 1858". This is the verso of the last page of WCP370.8298. [Envelope (WCP370.8297)]

Please cite as “WCP370,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 21 September 2023, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP370